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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health confirmed 1,687 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, raising the total to 31,938. It also reported nine additional deaths, taking the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus disease to 209.
On the positive side, the ministry said an additional 1,352 COVID-19 patients have recovered, the highest daily number of recoveries recorded since the start of the outbreak two months ago.
The total number patients who have recovered is now 6,783.
Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah highlighted the fact that the COVID-19 death rate in Saudi Arabia is 0.7 percent.
This is significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s latest figure for coronavirus mortality, which is 3.4 percent, he said.
He said that the Kingdom has managed to keep the death rate relatively low, despite rapidly increasing infection numbers, due to its treatment protocols, extensive testing program and active screenings.
Of 24,946 remaining active cases, 137 patients are in critical condition.
Of the new cases, 27 percent of the patients are Saudis and 73 percent expatriates, while 91 percent are adults and 80 percent male.
One of the dead coronavirus victims reported on Wednesday was a Saudi and the others were expatriates, whose ages ranged from 27 to 82.
Spikes in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases are the result of the increased testing across the country, which has helped to identify infected patients quickly, before they can spread the infection, Al-Rabiah said. This has helped to reduce the demands on the health care system.
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the government has allocated thousands of ICU beds and respirators, 96 percent of which are still available (vacant),” he said in a video message broadcast by Saudi national news station Al-Ekhbariya on Wednesday morning. “Thankfully, with you (the public) taking the necessary precautions, we won’t need them.”
Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said that the ministry is expanding its community testing strategy. During the second phase of the extensive COVID-19 testing program, an appointment for a test can be scheduled through the Mawid app.
He stressed that the tests are quick and safe, and although they are not mandatory he encouraged people to take advantage of the initiative and arrange one. He said that nearly a million self-assessments have been ordered through Mawid, which diagnosed many confirmed cases and helped the ministry to contain the spread of the infection.
The Interior Ministry also announced new penalties for ignoring or violating preventive and precautionary measures, which were set out in a royal order issued on Tuesday.
Transgressions include irregular use of movement permits, violating quarantine instructions, intentionally transmitting infection, incitement to violate precautionary measures, and broadcasting and spreading rumors. Penalties were also set for businesses that fail to comply with health and safety requirements during the pandemic.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub said that citizens, private companies and their employees found guilty of breaching the regulations face fines of between SR1,000 ($270) and SR500,000, and jail terms of between one month and five years. Expatriates who are convicted will be deported and barred from re-entering the country.
“The royal order was issued out of concern for the health and safety of citizens and residents,” said Al-Shalhoub. He added that figures for violations in each region will be announced each day. In addition, further measures will be announced soon that limit social gatherings, along with details of the penalties for failing to following them.
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